A ship that will carry aid from the Iranian Red Crescent Society will leave June 27 on a voyage through the Suez Canal to the Gaza Strip, said Abdolrauf Adibzadeh, the relief group’s head of international affairs.
The vessel will depart from the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, loaded with 1,100 tons of supplies, Adibzadeh told reporters in Tehran today. Five Red Crescent representatives and five journalists also will be aboard, he said.
The trip’s organizers aren’t looking for a confrontation with Israel, Adibzadeh said. The ship, which the group rented from a private Iranian company, “will respect international laws,” he said. “We aren’t seeking adventurism.”
The mission was announced after nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists, including one who also held U.S. nationality, were shot dead May 31 when Israeli commandos raided their boat in international waters. The vessel was one of six in a flotilla attempting to breach Israel’s three-year-old blockade of Gaza, the coastal strip ruled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the Israeli raid on the flotilla ship as “shameful“ and “criminal.” The Iranian government doesn’t recognize Israel.
Israel said it issued numerous warnings to the flotilla to change course for the port of Ashdod and unload there, before it seized the vessels.
Red Cross List
The Iranian ship’s cargo has been chosen from a list of goods needed in Gaza as determined by International Committee of the Red Cross, Adibzadeh said. There will be 50 tons of medication and the rest is food and hygiene goods, he said.
“Providing people in Gaza with aid is one aspect but it is not sufficient,” Adibzadeh said. “Most important is to help them by seeking to end the blockade on Gaza.”
Israel agreed two days ago to allow all food items and a wider range of building supplies into Gaza while banning materials that might be used for attacks on Israeli territory. The shipments are entering by road, while the naval blockade remains in place.
Israeli officials say they must prevent shipments from entering Gaza without first checking them for weapons that may be used against the country’s southern towns and cities, which have come under attack from rockets.
Middle East envoy Tony Blair said yesterday that humanitarian aid groups have no reason to try to reach the Gaza Strip by sea, after the Israeli government agreed to loosen the blockade following international criticism.
For the past three years, Israel has allowed only about 100 basic food products and consumer items into Gaza, while banning such goods as chocolate, jam, potato chips and shaving cream. It started letting those items in two weeks ago as it began to ease the restrictions.